You may have heard that an Italian movie finally made it to the Oscars again, La grande bellezza directed by Paolo Sorrentino.
I don’t know why, but this has caused all sorts of polemics and pointless discussions about how unworthy of the Oscar the film is, how boring it is, and how it all was a political move (?)
I have just finished watching it and I liked it, and I can see why it has won (even if I haven’t watched any of the other contenders). The protagonist, journalist Jep Gambardella, is a fascinating, complex character, he is both cynical and quite sarcastic and very human and sensitive with people and events that deserve it. He is never mean just for the sake of it.
There are other characters that are a lot more than they may appear at first, and there are others, on the contrary, that are every bit as shallow as they look.
Some of the scenes are caustic, like the one at the Vatican when Sister Mary receives the homage paid by all sorts of religious people. That is really bordering on grotesque and quite funny. Or the cardinal that can explain the details of all sorts of recipes as solemnly as if he were celebrating mass, but flees at the merest hint of spiritual questions.
Some are dreamy, like the disappearing giraffe, or the flamingoes stopping on Jep’s balcony for a rest while migrating.
And then there’s the overwhelming presence of Rome, in all its beauty and decadence. Nothing can compare to taking a walk in Rome at night, when no one’s around and all the palaces, monuments and fountains are lit up. It doesn’t even seem real.
It’s a strange movie. I think it doesn’t have to be understood, it doesn’t have to be read, you just have to try and let it take you along with the story and then you’ll see its beauty, you’ll see that Jep’s life has come full circle: he probably started writing after being left by his then-girlfriend without understanding the reason, now the woman’s died and left a diary where she says she’s always loved him, all the time, but doesn’t explain why she left him, and this sparks Jep’s will to write a new novel, as so many people ask him to do. It’s not for everyone’s taste, but if you let it guide you, you’ll be part of a brilliant dance.